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Life After London Preppy

From the Dazed Archives: October 2008.

From the Dazed Archives: October 2008. To mark the one year deathiversary of the late great blogger turned author, London Preppy, Dazed Digital exclusively shares his final unpublished interview.

This interview was conducted one week prior to the suicide of London Preppy on 2nd October 2008. His body was discovered at the foot of a 19 storey local authority tower block in West London after an anonymous phone call to the police.

Walking into the Soho hotel suite where London Preppy is holed up doing back-to-back interviews I first catch sight of him from behind, bottle of water in one hand, dressed head to toe in a style born and raised in the wood-panelled corridors of Ivy League colleges. A grey alpaca jumper sits on top of a crisp white Brooks Brothers shirt pulled tight over a torso honed by a compulsive gym regime and possible eating disorder.  Maybe. Or at least he’s hinted as much on his blog. Something about swallowing toilet paper. As he turns to point a photographer towards the door he’s smiling a well rehearsed smile. It seems warm. He seems genuine. Almost human.

London Preppy’s agreed to be interviewed ahead of the launch of his highly anticipated second novel, Rewrite. It’s been over a year since his first offering, North, hit the shelves and stirred up a shitstorm of controversy for its unapologetic, and loosely autobiographical portrayal of a young man losing hope and swallowing fistfuls of sedatives to drown out the noise. Dividing critics but uniting a loyal audience comprised of a core readership transplanted from his cult London Preppy blog, North was compared to early Easton Ellis minus the ambiguity.

After much email too-ing and fro-ing with his publicist, lists of questions being sent, amended, returned and resent, certain topics of conversation being delineated as off limits (no, he won‘t talk about the Sindri rumors, no he won’t discuss the painkillers and no he won’t be available for a follow-up phone call), we finally reach an agreement to do a face-to-face. LP’s just back in the country from travelling. He doesn’t specify where to or from and it’s something we’re not supposed to ask about. For the next hour or so the conversation goes something as follows:

DD: So when did the blog start and what was your motivation?
London Preppy: I started writing the blog in order to document what was going on in my life after coming out, and to share that part of myself with my straight friends. Basically because I was doing very different things to what I did when I was hanging out with them. I wanted to share the gay side of my life with my straight friends. Then eventually the gay element became less important and I continued writing about all aspects of my life.

We talk about short stories penned while at University, about a precocious talent with  words. When asked about the realisation he could write he shrugs the question off with a dismissive “I don't really care about being really good at anything.” We’re told not to include this section of the interview.

DD: Can you tell us about the circumstances surrounding the writing of your first book? You travelled for a period before sitting down to write correct?
LP: No, that's not right. I didn't go away before sitting down to write, I went away in order to write. Before going away my life was too claustrophobic and stressed and I thought I needed to take some time out, go away and write. Of course when I did go away and removed that element and everything around me was relaxed and much lighter, I couldn't write anymore. There was nothing pushing me over the edge. I had to go back before I was able to start writing. With my first book I wanted to bleed on the audience and I couldn't bleed if nothing was cutting me up

DD: Did it hurt you that some critics failed to understand North when it was first released?
LP: Yes, it pissed me off. You know how writers and musicians and actors say that they don't read reviews and they don't care? Well I do. I felt embarrassed, I felt my work wasn't worthy. I couldn't face anything that I had written for months afterwards.

I ask about the New York Review of Books retracting its negative review six months after publication. The atmosphere chills noticeably. “It didn't feel like a victory. You can’t take back a punch in the face.” We’re told not to include the discussion that follows.

DD: Could you talk a little about the relationship between music and your work? How has your musical tasted influenced and shaped your narrative style?
LP: There's a huge connection between music and my work. For most scenes that I write I think of a soundtrack. My first book was written to a soundtrack of Suede and The Smiths. And Bon Iver. And the Scarlett Johansson album, particularly the track Falling Down. The music that inspires me to write is music that you listen to and it takes you to a place where you have to think: OK my life has just fallen apart, everything around me is destroyed, I've completely reached the bottom, I have nothing left to lose, I'm now going to resign and go along with it. My favourite characters that I write about are well past having any achievement or any hope and listening to the songs that I’ve mentioned also conveys that to me.

DD: Why did you decide your relationship with your boyfriend Scott would be off record? People have commented that it's the only thing you consistently refuse to talk about in reference to your work.
LP: There are two elements to this. Firstly, I don’t write about love, because I think if you keep it to yourself it has a chance of lasting longer. Secondly, I don’t write about sex, because I like the contradiction of looking like somebody who makes a huge effort to appear sexually attractive (posting half naked pictures of me everywhere, going to the gym, dieting, all that stuff) whilst not actually have an explicit sex life at all.

DD: Is it true you told Simon & Schuster to "go fuck themselves" when they approached you with a three book deal because they'd balked at publishing American Psycho?
LP: That’s complete nonsense. I would never turn down money for some lame ‘principles’ reason. And before you ask I never saw the film adaptation of North either. As soon as the studio cast Greg Timmermans I refused to have anything to do with the project. Can we change the subject.

What took you so long to write the second book? And should people expect something similar to the first or is this a dramatic departure? The second book probably took as long as the first book. It’s just that nobody was sat there waiting for my first one to come out, because people didn’t know me while I was writing it. I’m not sure about dramatic departure. My second book is the Dog Man Star to my first being Suede.

DD: If you could be remembered for one thing what would it be?
LP: I want people who didn’t like me and people who treated me badly to think of me and feel slightly guilty and think they had something to do with my demise and I want this to eat them alive. That’s all.

DD: Your work's been accused of existing solely on the surface level, like a cosmetically enhanced Samuel Beckett on human growth hormones or the literary realisation of Warhol's vacant, vacuous Hollywood. Is that fair do you think? 

LP: I don't mind what people think of it. I don't understand most other people's work, I don't expect them to understand mine.

DD: What did you want to achieve through your writing?
LP: Anyone who's ever read what I've written will know that I have no hopes or expectations. I just go through each day and surprise myself that I'm not dead by the end of it. To make plans for the future or hope for things to happen would seem absurd.

London Preppy died on 2nd October 2008. The author behind the character outlived the avatar. He continues to write and post occasionally on the same blog, although he is not now, nor never again will be, London Preppy. His real name is a closely guarded secret.